The Profession in General

Defining a Career “Path” for Comparative Literature Students:

-there is a great variety (and complexity) of types of academic jobs today

-in USA more so than in Canada

-Canada: university vs. community college; undergrad


-USA: public vs. private funding

four-year, two-year colleges vs. universities

-different schools have different emphases: teaching, research, “service”

-personal choice: different skills, interests, preferences

family commitments: children, working partner


-salary ranges vary with place and institution

-movement between institutions during career:

-easiest before tenure; less likely later

-reasons for moving: partner employment; lured away; change needed

-types of positions:

[-post-doctoral fellowships–1-2 years in length

-Killam (Dalhousie, UBC, Alberta)


-Calgary; Queen’s]

-full-time vs. part-time

-tutorships (non-tenurable but renewable)

-“sessional”, “terminal”, “contractually limited”

-time-limited; non-tenurable; occasionally convertible

-“tenure-track” or “tenure-stream”

-after 3-6 years, eligible for tenure

-progress through the ranks:

-lecturer/instructor (pre-Ph.D. often)

-assistant professor (pre-tenure usually)

(tenure = lifetime position

= freedom of speech guaranteed

= full participation in university decisions

-except for: criminal conviction or demonstrated failure to

live up to professional obligations)

-associate professor (with tenure usually)

-full professor (demonstrated international reputation)

(You will spend approximately 6-10 years in rank, before moving up.)

Special Situation of Comparative Literature Students:

-in Canada, few if any universities hire directly in Comparative Literature (situation in the US is different)

-therefore, you must be hired by a national language department

-in order to be competitive with Ph.D.s in that field you must:

-be sure your thesis topic shows emphasis in that


-try to publish something in a peer-reviewed journal                                                    in that literature as well

-try to get teaching experience in that language

-you DO have more to offer a department than a candidate in the specialist field, but it is up to YOU to convince the hiring committee of that (for it will not be self-evident)–you must address this DIRECTLY in your letters of application for positions.

The Job Itself:

-component parts = teaching, research, administrative service

-in theory, all are equal; in practice, balance varies

-most immediately demanding (in terms of time, energy):



(1) TEACHING-related activities

-planning, developing courses (+ responsibility to your subject)

-preparing lectures or seminars

-teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses–in national

language department and in Comp Lit

(load varies: 2-3 per term in most Canadian departments)

-grading of essays and exams (larger classes each year)

-counselling students

-supervision: undergraduate senior essays

graduate theses

-letters of reference (admission; grants; jobs…)

[Preparation in Grad School: professional skills seminars on teaching; comprehensive examinations; teaching assistantships]

(2) SERVICE  (“citizenship”)

-being a self-governing profession means responsibilities

-particular concerns for women and minorities today: representation vs.


-four areas: administration within the institution

professional activities outside it

peer review

public service

(i) Administration: – committee work (all levels) (advisory)

– chair or equivalent (all levels)

– community (alumni/ae; fund-raising)

(ii) Professional Activities (no remuneration, usually)

-professional associations (ACCUTE, MLA, e.g.)

-committees; executive; attend meetings

-editorial boards (journals; presses)

-conferences (organizing; attending)

(iii) Peer Review (run amok today, as many are required for many reasons)

-referee for: -students

(admission, grants, jobs)


(promotion, tenure, grants, jobs)

-granting agencies

(individual applications; juries)


(book manuscripts)

-scholarly journals


-doctoral dissertations

(internal or external appraisal)

(iv) Public Service

-television, radio interviews

-government committees

[Preparation: departmental committee work; student rep for CCLA, etc.]

Special Situation of Comparative Literature Faculty:

-double committee load (Comp Lit plus national literature department)

-double supervision load


-definition and relative valuing (in order) of scholarly activities:

-writing–books, articles, conference papers, reviews

-editing–scholarly texts, journals, anthologies, essay


-speaking–peer-reviewed conference papers, invited guest

lectures, special panels, responses to papers


-creative writing (if it’s part of your job description)

-performing/directing/producing  (drama) (if in your job description)

-note: to fund research, you usually must apply for grants

-leave enough time and treat applications seriously

-get tips on applying from current holders of grants

[Preparation: course presentations and essays; doctoral dissertation; grant applications–i.e., most of your career so far]

The Professional “Community”: (institutional and intellectual)








-professional associations


-local: e.g. Work In Progress or reading groups

-national: Canadian Comparative Literature Association

-international: MLA; ICLA; ACLA

-specialty: ACQL; Commonwealth, plus individual national

literature associations by period, genre, author,

theory, etc.

-what they offer:

-conferences to attend and at which to give papers

-e.g. Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social

Sciences (late May, early June; on a Canadian


MLA (Dec. 27-30; after 2010 alternating with early January

dates; in USA usually)

-journals in which to publish: e.g. CRCL or PMLA

-in general: ways to keep up on current research

opportunities to meet others in the field

(intellectual contacts vs. “networking”)

NOTE: student rates are usually available and often include the cost of the association’s journal; membership in the associations in your area is a signal to a hiring committee or a tenure committee that you are actively engaged in the profession.

Important URLs:

Canadian Comparative Literature Association:

Modern Language Association of America:

Linda Hutcheon